1/2016

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Call to action – 7,000 new ICT professionals needed in decades to come: Choose ICT project helps today’s youth to become tomorrow’s professionals in ICT

Choose ICT project helps today’s youth to become tomorrow’s professionals in ICT

Regarding the history of Oulu’s ICT sector, it does not necessarily come to mind that there would one day be a lack of talent in the region. However, when the numbers get crunched, there seems to be a notable dip in the regional workforce within a little more than a decade. At the moment, there are about 13,000 ICT professionals working in the companies, and on top of that are the people in transition between jobs, employers or locations. But time spares no one.

“Approximately 7,000 employees will retire by 2030, and in the same timespan only 3,200 new graduates will enter the labour market from regional education,” says project manager Satu Kaattari of the Choose ICT project, currently finalizing funding. Adding the fact that ICT is neither the sexiest nor the most understood industry for today’s teenagers, all of a sudden there looms a serious threat of lack of labour in the near future. That is exactly what Choose ICT plans to counter.

Knowing what to do, doing what they know

The project is currently funded by the City of Oulu, and it is under co-operation negotiations with the University of Oulu and BusinessOulu for larger project funding. The workload will be vast. “For instance, one obstacle is to define ICT itself to high school students – what does the term entail?” This is done by sheer footwork. “For instance, we’re going to participate with a booth of our own in the Vectorama gaming event, where actual ICT products such as robots, VR goggles and a 3D cave will be present, and university students tell the kids what it’s like to study coding and IT at the university,” Kaattari explains.

But just explaining is not enough. The project already has a coding side to it, and that is just the beginning. Dan Acker is an IT student at the University of Oulu, and he works in the project as something of a coding agent. “I want to find suitable high school kids with interest in programming, and nurture that interest into a self-studied hobby. That hobby in turn will help them find study paths and profession.” The sub-project will recruit several youth for a summer’s worth of a hands-on programming course, where the idea is to create a self-sustainable studying method as easily as possible.

Preparing for the unknown

“We plan to explain the industry to today’s high school students in a way that hopefully will attract them to study the fields necessary when they start their higher education. For instance, math has been increasingly unpopular amongst the youth as a study subject, but when university entry tests are looked at, 92% of them require the longer studies of high school mathematics.”

Kaattari realizes that the math problem is just the tip of the iceberg – a whopping 82% of high school students have little idea of what they actually want to do professionally after studying, but giving pointers on career paths is challenging. “A common estimate is that half of the jobs that today’s 6th graders will work in haven’t been invented yet”, she says.

 

Choose ICT – the project aims to deliver the message of a bright future in ICT to the young people who are about to make the choices and decisions concerning their studies and future careers.